"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Money to Burn

For a country which can't afford to equip its soldiers properly or compensate them adequately when they are seriously injured serving their Queen, we certainly do have a lot of money to waste on pointless nonsense, as the following two stories demonstrate.

From The Hounslow Chronicle:

HOUNSLOW Council spent £15,000 on an art project for asylum seekers, its accounts have shown.

The grant paid to the Refugee Art and Cultural Enterprise (RACE) group is one of many items the authority has faced criticism for splashing out on since its accounts were made public last week.

Elsewhere almost £20,000 was spent on specialist alcohol counselling for ethnic minorities, while the council spent almost £80,000 on counselling its own employees.

RACE – which describes its purpose as 'to advance the education of the public in artistic taste and knowledge by providing exhibitions and public performances produced by refugees and asylum seekers' – used the money to help fund a £70,000 sculpture on the Butts Farm estate.

Sally Smith, who lives on the estate, said: “It's a staggering waste of money if you ask me. We would prefer good services such as weekly bin collections rather than hearing that our taxes are being blown on art projects for asylum seekers.

“I don't see why the council spends so much time trying to tick boxes and neglecting what it's supposed to be doing. I'm sure any asylum seekers living around here would prefer the money to be spent on processing their applications rather than stupid sculptures.”

The £78,700 spent on counselling in the 2008/09 financial year – which could have paid the wages of three extra teachers – was described by the council as 'vital'.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “These are vital employee support services shared between all Hounslow schools, Hounslow Homes and the council. Like many large private and public organisations, we provide these types of support to minimise costs of staff sickness absence.

Hounslow’s staff absence levels are now amongst the lowest in the country.”

From This is Nottingham:

A NOTTS charity is celebrating a cash windfall from the Big Lottery Fund.

The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (NNRF) is receiving £457,311 for their Reaching Communities programme, which aims to help those most in need and develop stronger communities.

The charity, which has a regional base in Alfred Street North, in St Anns, was started in 2000 and provides a lifeline to refugees and asylum seekers.

The grant will allow the NNRF to invest in the expanding work of the refugee forum's day centre which provides practical assistance, support and friendship to refugees and asylum seekers in the county.

Their volunteer-led centre is a base for people to meet and get help and advice.

The centre offers help on legal advice, health issues, housing, training and finding work. Visitors can also use the centre's computers and access the internet. The NNRF also runs an anti-destitution group for asylum seekers and refugees who find themselves homeless and in need of support.

Treasurer Leo Keely said: 'We are delighted to have succeeded in our bid. Organisations like the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum need to be supported and sustained.

"We are very happy that the Big Lottery Fund has recognised this."

More than 400 refugees and asylum seekers visit the centre every week and the NNRF hopes the funding will allow them to improve the services they provide to their visitors.

Mick McGrath, the East Midlands head of region for the Big Lottery Fund, said: "The forum makes a genuine difference to vulnerable people. We are delighted to support their continuing good work in the community."

It's nice to know that money can always be found for the really important things.

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